Indie Lights Book Parade – Rhyannon Yates, author
Two thousand years after the Schism, the borders are beginning to weaken. Wraiths are turning to dust in the streets, people are dropping dead, the chests torn open and inner organs burned away, and all Levi Keats wants to do is deliver a disciplinary summons and go home to the safety of his University office. A simple administrative duty turns perilous with the addition of a suspected murderer, a rogue border patrol agent, and the increasing possibility that prophesies of the Great Cataclysm are slightly less fictitious than previously assumed.
RY: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but Catalyst grew out of two different writing projects, one of which has early drafts that go back to my thirteen-year-old self. I was working on both projects simultaneously, and had the problem for one that I had a great antagonist, but no real problem, while for the other, I had an awesome conflict, but not defined antagonist. I ended up picking up my antagonist from one story, as well as a few of said story’s key characters, and plunking them into the world of the other.
IMBP: What book are you reading now?
RY: Abhorsen by Garth Nix. I’m rereading it for the first time in years, and I’d forgotten how much I love the Abhorsen Series. Garth Nix combines realism with fantasy so seamlessly, and the idea of stepping through the veil between life and death, and the notion of controlled versus uncontrolled magic influenced me as an author quite a bit. The more I read of his work, the more I see his influence in my own writing, which, on the one hand, is awesome, because Garth Nix is amaze-balls, but on the other, makes me wonder if I’m being too derivative or unoriginal. Reading is so stressful as an author. Sometimes you read something and think “If this nonsense can get published, I can definitely succeed!”, and other times you read things that are just genius and spend the next week in a spiral of booze and self-loathing, researching accounting school because you’ll NEVER succeed as an author.
ILBP: Do you have any advice for other writers?
RY: Not that I’m a great success (YET), but the best advice I’ve found is just to write. Life comes prepackaged with excuses. I have two young children, a nine-to-five job, volunteer responsibilities, and a marriage to maintain. Life is busy, and writing time doesn’t just present itself. Make time, and guard that time. It’s easy to blow it off and see it as expendable, but the Law of Infinite Probability notwithstanding, your novel won’t write itself.
ILBP: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
RY: I feel like that is one of my biggest challenges, is that my work doesn’t really have a message. I remember that I used to get so annoyed in English class when we were supposed to dissect these works of literature to find what the authors message was. To borrow from John Green, books belong to their readers. If you read Catalyst and find a message that impacts you in a profound way, that’s awesome, and I’m glad that the book is able to mean something to you. If you read it and enjoy it and walk away without feeling like any great message was conveyed, I’m great with that, too. I’m much more into the idea of a story that stays with someone than in trying to impart anything deep and philosophical.
ILBP: What are you working on right now?
RY: I’m in the middle of writing a book called “Catalyst”, which will hopefully be ready for publication in June. It’s been a long time coming, and now that the end is in sight, I’m starting to get really excited about the future of the book, whether it will be a series or a standalone, that sort of thing. The book deals a lot with race issues, social hierarchies, and the personal effects of mental illnesses like anxiety, all set against the backdrop of this fractured world that has literally sequestered itself in a bubble, away from the rest of the universe.
ILBP: While you were writing, did you ever feel as if you were one of the characters?
RY: There are definitely pieces of myself in Levi. I’ve dealt with anxiety and panic my entire adult life, and Levi is a particularly anxious hero. Our triggers are different, but the results are the same. Levi fears change and lack of stability, where my triggers tend to fall more into the realm of the irrational. We do share several anxiety coping methods, which you can see when Levi gets really nervous, and which I didn’t really put in as a conscious “Oh yes, let’s give this character a similar anxiety tic”, but which I feel fit him well anyway.
Rhyannon Yates Guest Post
About a year ago, I came out. Not as gay, much to my husbands relief, but as a feminist. Not an equalist, or a humanist, or any other watered down version of feminism that makes it more palatable to those who are too uncomfortable with a movement with a definitively defined oppressor and oppressee.
Don’t leave. This isn’t a feminist rant. I do those, too, but usually only at my friends and family, because they love me and have to listen.
When I fell into the amazing world that is feminism, it forced me to take a very hard look at the women I was writing into my novel. I was shocked when I realized that my only female characters were either matriarchs or classic damsels in distress. There was no strength, no dimension. I, a stalwart feminist who decries the fact that there is no movie forthcoming from Marvel with Black Widow as the protagonist, had allowed myself to fall victim to the most classic blunders of writing. I’d robbed my female characters of any depth, framed the men as almighty heroes, and fashioned my women into prizes.
Even as I worked to strengthen my women, I realized how easy it is to make a women exist solely for the sake of the hero, to identify her as the manic pixie dream girl whose sole purpose is to draw the repressed, cautious hero into a bigger, brighter world. Separating myself from the carefully crafted roles women in fiction tend to fill was challenging, and I’ll be the first to admit that my two women, Tessa and Freya...well, they aren’t quite there yet. Tessa started as a waif, a damsel captured by the bad guy, waiting to be rescued by her white night. Freya was little but a hand for Levi to hold as he conquered his anxieties and demons. Not good enough. Not by half.
So I handed Tessa two pistols and told her to rescue her own self. Her husband, Rhys, does his fair share of rescuing as well, but they save each other, and they respect each other. Freya ended up being no ones love interest at all, but a woman hiding her own anxieties and traumas underneath a uniform.
It’s a popular theme that we need to do better by women in fiction. It just never occurred to me that the “we” meant “me” as well.
Rhyannon Yates Character Interview
ILBP: So let’s start easy. What’s your name? What do you do?
FL: Freya. Freya Leot. I work for the Greater Aridae Border Patrol, South Gynrad Division. I mostly act as a liaison between the border office and the magistrates that write travel papers for people to cross the borders.
ILBP: Forgive me for saying, but you don’t really resemble a Gynrad native. You look more--
FL: Nhari? I am, actually. Or, well...I AM from Gynrad, but as you get close to the Nhair border, there are more settlements of Nhari. Mostly descendants of refugees from the Schism. A few immigrants, but with border visas as difficult to get as they are...anyway, I grew up near the the western Gynrad border. Skin like mine, dark like this? Pretty common in that part of the world.
ILBP: I see. So what brought you to Border Patrol? Pretty dangerous job, making sure no one sneaks through.
FL: laughing. Sneak through the borders? Hardly. There’s only one way to cross, and that’s at a Gate. If you tried to cross anywhere else, nothing would happen, you’ld just find yourself right back where you started. That;s the problem with interdimensional borders. As to what brought me here, I just wanted away from the quiet.
ILBP: The Quiet?
FL: Yea. In towns like mine, it’s like people will do anything to preserve the peace. People want things calm, pleasant, happy. They’ll ignore anything, as long as everything stays quiet, peaceful.
ILBP: So where do you call home now?
FL: Wadel. It’s this town by the border, small. Quiet. laughs. I never thought of it before, but it’s ironic, isn’t it? Running from one quiet town, only to end up in another. It’s a good quiet in Wadel, though. Different than home.
ILBP: How so?
FL: In Wadel, the quiet is just because life goes on pretty smoothly. People are just living their lives, you know. Home...it’s like the quiet was thick. It was loud quiet, like it had to drown out all the secrets.
ILBP: Secrets? What kind of secrets?
FL: I mean, secrets like everyone has, I suppose. Listen, this has been great, but I have to be back at post in ten minutes. Agent Beckett will give me extra forest patrol if I’m late again, and the way the border’s been leaking Phantasms, I’d just as soon not.
Rhyannon Yates began writing at the age of five with a charming story about a misunderstood girl and her pet hippo. She grew out of her pachyderm-peddling ways, and spends her time now trying to crank out the next great American fantasy novel while binge-watching Netflix.
Rhyannon lives in Florida with her husband, her cat, and her two offspring.
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